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Sun 31 Aug 2008 02:10 PM

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More help needed to rescue Indian flood victims

Hundreds of thousands still marooned in remote villages as relief plan hampered.

Authorities struggling to provide aid after devastating floods in eastern India said on Sunday they needed more boats and rescuers to help hundreds of thousands of people still marooned in remote villages.

Bad weather and heavy rain over the past few days have hampered rescue and relief operations in the worst-ever floods to hit Bihar state in 50 years, officials said.

"I can't say specifically how many people are still stranded in floods," Nitish Mishra, the state's disaster management minister said on Sunday.

"But their numbers are in lakhs (hundreds of thousands) and we require more resources, more boats, army and rescue efforts to evacuate them."

Floods have killed more than 1,000 people in South Asia since the monsoon began in June, mainly in India's northern state of Uttar Pradesh, where 785 people died, and deaths were also reported in Nepal and Bangladesh.

In Bihar, the toll rose to 90 on Sunday with five more people drowning overnight in separate districts.

At least 3 million people have been displaced and those figures could rise as heavy rain continued, officials said.

Television pictures showed villagers holding on to tails of cattle as they crossed flooded roads with belongings on their heads. Some were seen frantically waving at a few boatmen to come and rescue them.

"I presented my buffalo to the boatman in exchange for a place in his boat since I don't have any money," Shambhoo Yadav, a rescued villager said.

Authorities also complained that thousands of villagers have refused to be evacuated and go to camps, saying they wanted to stay back and protect their belongings.

The latest flooding occurred after the Kosi river burst a dam in neighbouring Nepal earlier this month and changed its course, swamp hundreds of villages in Bihar and destroy over 100,000 hectares (247,000 acres) of farmlands.

In Nepal, officials said repairing the dam was under way but turning the river back to its original course would take time.

At least seven people were killed in monsoon floods and landslides in Nepal on Saturday, raising the monsoon-related death toll in the Himalayan nation to more than 100 this year.

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